October 20, 2017

Halloween Costumes on the Cheap

I know today is Friday, but better late for a Thrifty Thursday post than never, right? Yesterday morning, I had physical therapy; then, I spent the rest of the morning at Salvation Army and Goodwill looking for Halloween costume items for the kids.

I know it's easy to buy a costume online or even overpay at the Halloween stores that pop up every year, but I've always loved handmade costumes or just piecing together costumes with different items. Nothing beats a handmade Halloween costume!

My mom used to sew my costume every year, and they always looked amazing. The quality of a handmade costume will make it last for decades, so it can be passed along to others as well.

Here is a dog costume that I wore when I was almost two years old. I think I even wore it again the following year--I loved this costume, and wore it for dress up sometimes. I vividly remember that when I went to my aunt's house for trick-or-treating, she "tricked" me by giving me a couple of milk bones! Haha.

handmade dog Halloween costume

This next costume was my favorite, by far. I loved Snow White! My mom made this, and my friend Sarah's mom made her the same costume (we liked to dress alike almost every year--nerds!). This one was eventually handed down to my younger cousins. You can't beat the quality of a handmade costume!

handmade Snow White Halloween costume

This next one (sorry for the bad photo) was Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros. Nathan, my younger brother, dressed as Mario, and his costume was also fantastic. I can't find a photo of it at the moment. My mom remembers this costume very well, because once she was done sewing it, I decided I wanted to dress as a nurse instead, just like Sarah. My poor mother.

Handmade Princess Peach Halloween costume

When my boys were little, I had so much fun making their costumes as well! My favorites were these ones... Noah was Batman and Eli was a dog.

handmade Batman Halloween costume

handmade dog Halloween costume

I learned that sewing with fur is an enormous mess, but the result was worth it.

Sewing costumes is actually not very thrifty--it's pretty expensive, in fact. Considering how much we played dress-up, it was worth it, though! You can always find fabric at thrift stores, though, so you could potentially make a costume for less than $10.

That's not to say you can't throw together costumes for super cheap, though...

One year, Sarah was going to dress as a hippie, so naturally, I wanted to do that, too. Our moms turned our jeans into bell-bottoms (unfortunately, you can't see them well in this photo), and we decorated them with peace signs and things like that. We had made some beaded keychains at summer camp, so we hung those from our belt loops, and added belts with some 60's-looking fabric.

handmade hippie Halloween costume

My kids went with me to Goodwill one year, and when they saw the costumes there, they really wanted them. Noah wanted a "ghoul" costume, and Eli wanted a zombie costume. Grand total that year was less than $10!

ghoul costume and zombie Halloween costume

Last year, Eli wanted to be a fisherman, and Noah a doctor. This was very simple! Eli already is a fisherman, so he had everything except for the hat. I bought that on Amazon for roughly $10(?).

I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had a lab coat I could borrow for Noah, because I couldn't find one at the thrift stores. My friend Jessica had one, so we borrowed that. I bought the scrub bottoms for $2 at Salvation Army. We made a little name badge, and that was it! Simple.

handmade fisherman Halloween costume doctor costume

Some tips for cheap Halloween costumes:

*Keep in mind that people usually only wear costumes once--so getting a used one is very easy!

*Check thrift stores--not only for used costumes, but TONS of Halloween accessories like wigs, masks, hats, etc. I've seen lots of new items with tags still on them.

*Ask friends on Facebook (or wherever) if anyone has any costumes you could borrow. I can almost guarantee you will find a costume this way.

*Buy next year's costume in November--you can almost always get it 50-75% off. Kids almost always change their minds, but for adult costumes, buying in November can be a great way to save money.

*Think of costumes you can piece together with random items you may have or can buy for cheap. For example, Eli's fisherman costume--he wore camouflage coveralls (he was planning to wear his waders, but he couldn't walk very fast in them, which meant less candy--haha); a khaki vest with lots of pockets; a hat with a some fly hooks on it; and he carried a fishing net lined with fabric to collect his candy.

*Consider items that can be reused. For example, Eli wanted to be a baseball player one year--the jersey could be worn over and over again, making it worth the cost (we happened to have one already that we'd gotten at Salvation Army). He had baseball pants from playing summer ball, and he already had a Tigers hat.

baseball player Halloween costume

This year, Noah wants to be Indiana Jones. I have never seen Indiana Jones, so I had to look up what we needed in order to put together a costume. I found this handy guide online:

And yesterday, at Goodwill, I happened to find almost everything I needed! And pretty close to what is shown in the photo guide.

(The jacket I found is actually brown, it just looks much darker in the photo)

handmade Indiana Jones Halloween costume
The cats were clearly into it

The only things I would still like to get are a satchel and a whip. This costume wasn't exactly "cheap"--I believe everything totaled $40. Considering the boots and leather jacket, I felt it was a fair price. I had to buy the hat at a Halloween store, because the only one that I found at Goodwill was felt (not great quality) and $5--the one at the Halloween store was $12, and much better quality.

Even though it wasn't cheap, he can wear the items again (the boots were only $8, and they're nice!). Best of all, Noah was THRILLED with the costume when he came home from school and saw it laid out on his bed.

So there you have it--whether you make a costume, piece together a costume, borrow one, buy a costume at a thrift store, or buy one 11 months before Halloween--there are lots of options for thrifty Halloween costumes!


  1. My very favorite costume growing up was my dad's MP uniform! It was his military gear complete with a hard helmet that had the big "MP" on the front.

    Obviously, as a five year old, the military uniform didn't quite fit, so my mom had us wear our own clothes and just topped our little outfit with my dad's military shirt like a makeshift overcoat (pinned so it wouldn't drag of course)

  2. My son wants to be a fireman. Luckily he already has a jacket and hat in his dress up. But I bought some navy Dickies that he can wear again and a navy t-shirt and some red overalls on Amazon. I still need to get him some rain boots, again something he can wear all year. So I'm pretty pleased with this year!

  3. My favorite homemade costume when I was a kid (4th or 5th grade) was a Rubik's Cube! I memorized a book on how to solve the actual cube, and so everyone associated me with it. The costume was a big box that we decorated with tiles made of construction paper. The middle tile in the top was "popped up" and made of a smaller box that surrounded my head. The problem with the costume was that it was hard to move around in or sit down, ha. I liked it because it was nerdy and original. Honestly these days, I'm not really into Halloween very much...I'm always too busy at work to want to take time to be creative with it. I'm glad your family is having fun with the holiday!

  4. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I wanted to be a butterfly. My mom spent soooo long making these huge cardboard wings for me to wear. She put so much work into painting them and rigging them up with straps so I could wear them like a backpack. Looking back at pictures, the wings were pretty impressive. Only problem was, they were HUGE on a little six year old's body ;) It was hard to navigate the streets with those bad boys! One house I vividly remember had a row of hedges lining their front walkway and I couldn't get through them with my wings. I had to wait at the end while my mom walked up to get my candy. Its super fun now to look back on the memories of those homemade costumes and have a little laugh! :)

  5. Several years ago my son wanted to be a tootsie roll. I had a lot of fun making the costume, I even borrowed stencils from the school where I work to get the lettering on the roll just right. It was great! Until we got about 6 houses down the street...he tripped on the the sidewalk, fell into the neighbors bushes, and couldn't get up because the costume didn't bend AT ALL. It was funny as heck.

  6. The pictures of you as a little kid, look so much like Eli! Adorable!!

  7. I remember when my oldest was in elementary school, we made a "Dr. Pepper" costume. It consisted of a lab coat with little plastic hot peppers attached with a hot glue gun. We made him a name tag that said Dr. Pepper. He also wore scrub pants and a surgical mask. Everybody loved it!


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